BC Law places a heavy emphasis on experiential learning, beginning your 1L year. But as a 2L and 3L, you have the opportunity to dive even deeper into practice through externships or clinic experiences. You can learn more about the clinic offerings at BC here, but because I decided to take the externship route, I’ll reflect on that experience.
Through BC’s Semester-in-Practice program, students are given the opportunity to secure job placements in Boston or beyond for course credit. The number of hours per week depends on the placement and the student, and all students must participate in a weekly seminar as well. I decided to spend last semester at Tripadvisor, where I worked (virtually due to COVID) 4 days a week.
“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.” – Saint Francis de Sales
In the law, and especially in litigation, it can seem like being gentle has no place. The adversarial system is set up like a zero-sum game, and it can feel like softness is in direct contrast with winning in the courtroom. However, in a profession where we lawyers are painted as aggressive and combative, perhaps gentleness is a silent strength, particularly in our relationships with our clients.
I’m in the COVID-19 Housing Relief Clinic this semester, and we spent this first week in trainings. During these training sessions, we conducted role-play situations, both interviewing and counseling “clients.” In our training, the “clients” were just our supervising professors and the situations were merely hypothetical. Yet, these simulations reflected the very types of cases and clients that, as student attorneys at the BC Legal Services Lab, we might see this semester. For example, some of these scenarios included a wife trying to keep custody of her son in a divorce case with her potentially abusive husband or a landlord using unjust practices to force evictions.
At first, I wondered how useful this training would be. After all, how much is there to learn about just talking to clients? Turns out the answer, is a lot.
Over the decade and a half since its start, The Boston College Innocence Program has amassed an astonishing reputation for its work in innocence advocacy and wrongful convictions. Bolstering an impressive record, BCIP both represents innocent individuals and works with policymakers regarding legislative reform, quite literally changing lives every step of the way.
This year in particular, BCIP has secured an impressive amount of exonerations and releases, using new evidence and instances of misconduct, with three major victories in 2020 alone:
To put it simply, I did not have the summer I expected. Like many of my peers, my summer associate program was cancelled, I had to put vacation plans on hold, and I was forced to think about the post-grad job market way more than I wanted. But this unexpected turn of events (thank you, COVID-19) led to an incredible opportunity at Citrix.
During the fall of my 2L year, I took a Privacy Law course with Peter Lefkowitz, Chief Privacy & Digital Risk Officer at Citrix. I had gotten to know Peter pretty well over the course of the semester, and had gone to him for career advice before. So, when I discovered I suddenly had no summer plans, I took a chance, reached out to Peter, and asked if he had any suggestions for how to gain privacy-related experience while I had this downtime. Lucky for me, Citrix was in the middle of launching its first legal internship program, and Peter had the perfect opportunity.
The view from the twentieth floor of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office building is incredible. From the executive conference room you can see clear to the Heights; BC’s Gasson bell tower rises above the surrounding suburbs. From my desk, I could peek out onto Boston Harbor or the Charles River, depending on which way I turned. One day I caught glimpses of the tall ships taking their annual jaunt through the harbor. Viewed through a metaphorical lens the height of the AG’s office, which towers above the statehouse next door, hints at the independence, responsibility, and power bestowed on the office. In Massachusetts, the AG (who is elected, not appointed, and is currently Maura Healey) both protects and enforces the state’s laws, and stands up for its citizens when the federal government’s actions threaten them. Every year, a select few third-year BC Law students get to peek into and experience the extensive and demanding work behind fulfilling those duties. Last year, I had the fortune of being one of those students.
Lawyers have their own language. It might be a little frustrating at times, but that is the reason we spend three painful years in law school learning how to think, speak, and write like lawyers. By the time we pass the bar, we have been equipped with a roadmap that allows us to navigate the complex legal arena. Of course, we are not the only profession with its own language. In fact, almost all professions have terminology that is commonly understood by those within the profession, but confusing to those outside of it.
This year I am participating in Boston College’s Juvenile Rights Advocacy program, and I am busy learning yet another language. Do you know what the acronym IEP stands for? Have you ever heard the terms FAPE? What is the difference between the BSEA and OCR? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, don’t worry, many people don’t know them. IEP stands for Individual Education Plan, and as the name suggests, it’s an educational term. The BSEA is a court that is used to resolve education disputes; it stands for Bureau of Special Education Appeals. The OCR stands for Office of Civil Rights, which is another court that can be used for certain types of education related claims. FAPE is a legal term that stands Free Appropriate Public Education, which is a federal right and typically the basis for the claims that would be brought in front of the BSEA or OCR. As for CRA, it is not strictly an education term, however, many children who require specialized education services also require the help that a CRA grants. CRA stands for Child Requiring Assistance, and parents file them with the courts when they need the courts help to supervise their children.
I am pleased to host a guest post today from 2L Sarah Nyaeme, who reflects on her clinic experience this past semester.
Almost exactly a year ago, I was in New York for my pro bono spring break trip. It was only my second time in the City, and in addition to looking forward to working at the
International Legal Foundation for the week, I was also excited to explore all that New York had to offer.
The trip took an unexpected turn when I realized my phone was missing from my purse
on my first day there. After searching my pockets, the surrounding area, and using the “Find My iPhone” app on my friend’s phone, it was clear that my phone had been stolen. Unsure of what to do, I called the non-emergency line of the local police department, assuming that a call to 911 was an improper use of the emergency number. I mean, it was just a phone.
It feels like just yesterday when I was getting ready to pack my car and head to Boston for my first year of law school. Now, the last week of my internship is quickly approaching and it’s hard to believe that on-campus interviews (or “OCI”) are right around the corner.
I spent this past summer interning for a judge at the D.C. Superior Court who presided over domestic relations matters. Coming from a divorced family myself, I was intrigued to learn about how these issues were handled in court. But part of me also worried that I would not truly be able to immerse myself in the subject area when I had no exposure to it from my first year’s classes and no intention of pursuing a career in family law.
However, I am happy to report back that interning for a judge exposed me to a lot, taught me important skills for my future career, and made me excited for next year’s classes. Here’s a breakdown of lessons I learned:
I’m pleased to host a guest post by Ned Melanson ’19, who writes about one of BC Law’s several programs that place students in legal internships in other countries.
Picture this: It’s Wednesday, 5:30pm, in late February in Boston. You, a 2L still coming down from the whirlwind of 1L (or a 3L starting to feel like a caged bird ready to spread your wings), are sitting on the yellow room couches with your law school chums, waiting for that night class to start. You are wondering why you were too lazy to sign up for a morning class and subjected yourself to a 6:00pm. The light fades from the Newton sky as you and your compatriots trade gossip from the last weekend or discuss plans for the upcoming, yet still distant one. Outside it’s cold and there’s snow in the parking lot.
Now picture this: It’s Wednesday, 5:30pm, in late February, in Dublin. You, adventurous and with great foresight, are sitting in O’Donoghue’s pub, just around the corner from the beautiful Georgian brick building that houses BC Ireland. Surrounding you are a group of equally adventurous BC Law 2L and 3L’s, most of whom you could not have named before this semester, but now you wouldn’t hesitate in calling them friends. You’re listening to the two chaps in the corner booth play a fully unplugged set of classic Irish folk songs; occasionally one will stand up and reprimand the crowd for not being quiet enough or to pass around the hat. You’ve spent most of the day working at your internship at a well-respected Irish law firm, dedicated non-profit, budding tech company, or maybe the world’s largest aircraft leasing company. The Guinness sitting in front of you is rumored to be the best in Dublin.
I have the privilege of spending my summer in New Orleans, working on indigent capital appeals. A lot of my day is spent in the organization’s library, digging into criminal law research questions. I’ve also had the opportunity to join an attorney at a status conference for a federal civil suit challenging the heat conditions on death row, and to visit some of our clients there.
This is my house for the summer, a carriage house converted into a studio. A few things about New Orleans: it’s humid (imagine living in the moment when you step out of a hot shower), the streets flood (past your ankles), the cockroaches are prolific (and big), and it’s one of the most amazing cities I’ve been in.
I’m looking forward to the next eight weeks here, learning more about the city and meeting more incredible attorneys who are dedicating their lives to saving those of others.